Today’s Voice referendum: What you need to know

Friday was the biggest single day of pre-polling in Australia's history with over one million votes cast.

Aussies are heading to the polls today to decide whether an Indigenous Voice to Parliament will be enshrined in the constitution.

More than 7,000 booths opened across multiple states at 8am on Saturday and will remain available for Australians to cast their vote right until 6pm by simply writing 'yes' or 'no' on the ballot.

A Newspoll survey published in The Weekend Australian shows a three-point swing toward a 'yes' vote over the past week to 37 per cent.

With 57 per cent of surveyed voters saying they intended to vote 'no' as of Friday, a point down on the previous poll, the referendum would be lost if the poll results were reflected at the ballot box. Six per cent of voters said they remained undecided.

So what will today look like?

What you need to know

  • Polling places are open from 8am to 6pm local time.

  • Over 6 million people voted early, with Friday being the biggest single day of pre-polling in Australia's history with just over one million votes cast.

  • The result of the referendum should be clear just hours after voting begins, political experts claim.

  • In order for a referendum question to pass it must be agreed to by the majority of voters in the majority of states – that means at least four of the country's six states.

  • Since Federation, there have been 44 proposals for constitutional change. Only 8 referendums have succeeded.

  • Voting is compulsory for all citizens aged 18 and above who are registered. And if you fail to vote and don't have a valid reason, you could face a $20 fine that will increase the longer it goes unpaid.

Voters queue up outside a polling station on Bondi Beach in Sydney on Saturday as polls open in Australia's Voice to Parliament referendum.
Aussies are flocking to the polls to have their say on the Voice to Parliament referendum. Source: Getty

🗣️ What they said

  • PM Anthony Albanese in his final appeal to voters: "This is a time where Australians have that opportunity to show their generosity of spirit."

  • Opposition Leader Peter Dutton: "We have an opportunity for Australians to do better. To do better to show respect for the First Australians, but to do something for ourselves as well."

  • Labor senator Pat Dodson in rare public appearance on Wednesday: "We need to have change, we need to have an effective voice to the parliament, we need to have recognition as the first peoples. You can't live in your own country and not be recognised. Are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people going to be at the table or pick up the crumbs as we have been for the last 200 years?"

  • Leading No campaigner and Nationals senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price: "I don’t think we should be dividing ourselves along the lines of race. The Constitution belongs to every single Australian and we need to come together as Australians and I'm there with others to ensure that we will put hard work to bring about outcomes that this government is failing to do."

  • Comedian Rove McManus on The Project: "What are we doing to ourselves? This is a real moment where we can be proud and show what a wonderful country this is."

Aussies early voting in the Voice to Parliament referendum at polls. A sample ballot paper for the referendum.
Voting in the Voice to Parliament referendum is compulsory for everyone aged 18 and above who is registered. Source: AAP/AEC

🤔 Why should I care?

Yes campaigners say that the Voice is needed to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia's Constitution, and because it would lead to governments making better decisions on matters that affect the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

No campaigners say too many details of how the advisory panel will operate are unknown, having a body for only one group of Australians will create a racial division in the country and a 'yes' vote could prompt endless litigation.

💬 Conversation starter

Josh Roose, a political sociologist, argues that the cost of living crisis could be a factor in how people vote - and it's likely to favour the 'no' campaign.

"People are so focused on themselves and their own survival that an abstract issue like this talking about rights and framed as recognition of others is seen as somehow threatening their own existence," he told Yahoo News Australia.

An outline of the proposed change to Australia's constitution.
The proposed change to Australia's constitution. Source: AEC

⏭️ So what next?

If the 'yes' campaign prevails, the next step would be legislation, political scientist Simon Jackman told Yahoo News Australia. "With the Parliament now having the powers to create the Voice in the constitution, [attention would] turn to the practical business of what is its form and its structure, what questions would Parliament delegate to the Voice to take a crack at and how Indigenous representatives might be elected to it by their local communities."

Given the recent poll results, Mr Jackman said if the referendum passes, it will be a "political earthquake". "It will be such a shock that if that were to happen I think the coalition would be rocked to its core."

If the 'no' campaign prevails, Mr Jackman said the outcome will be "personally devastating to the generation of Indigenous leaders who have been on the front lines of this now for, in some cases, decades."

With some efforts about the treatment of First Nations people being made in Queensland, South Australia and NSW, the political scientist said he believes attention will return to potential changes on a state level. He also predicted that following a loss, Labor "will be keen to try and put something on the table between now and the end of the political year", such as housing, to "remind us that they're competent government and that they're actually dealing with the issues".

🗞️ To read more about the Voice referendum:

The Voice: AEC boss blasts 'un-Australian' tactic in fiery ABC interview

The Voice referendum: The millions of Aussie residents who can't vote

The Voice: The four big events that have got Australia talking

With AAP

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